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Culture Abuse - "Bay Dream" | Album Review

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by Mike LeSuer (@zebraabraham)

Nearly halfway through 2018, two surprising-yet-inevitable trends have begun to emerge in American popular culture: a focused revival of early 2000s nostalgia, as modeled and set to music by the likes of Soccer Mommy and Snail Mail, and the full-circle transition of irony back to seeming earnestness, as initiated by the comedy of Joe Pera, currently being televised by the sardonic superpower Adult Swim. Both events seem to stem from a regression set in motion due to an inability to push the boundaries of a trend any further, as the revival of fashion has nearly found its way back to the present day, and you can’t really get much more chaotic-evil than The Eric Andre Show.

As torchbearers for this shifting zeitgeist into punk circles, genre free agents Culture Abuse appear to be the perfect candidates for the Promethean task. On paper (and, more so, in photograph) the West Coasters could accurately align themselves with the post-hardcore punk of Pissed Jeans or the jorts-core melodia of Joyce Manor. But, as evinced in their recent transition from the oft-dreamy 6131 Records to Epitaph—presently home to both Converge and Motion City Soundtrack—Culture Abuse has every intention of negating typecasting as they aim to reach a significantly wider audience.

The band introduced their Epitaph debut, Bay Dream, with a pair of pun-laden singles, “Calm E” contributing to a fruitful pop song tradition of phone-focused love affairs and “Bee Kind to the Bugs” proving a Buddhist mantra of self-care and unwavering empathy for all living creatures. Despite its relatively edgy aesthetic loitering somewhere between PacSun and Spencer’s Gifts, the rest of the album follows suit, even going so far as nodding to wholesome hall of famers, as in the paraphrased “Blue Moon” dang-a-dangs on “California Speedball,” the zip-a-dee-doo-dah namesake of “Bluebird on My Shoulder,” and the Smash Mouth keyboard riffs coloring “Dave’s Not Here (I Got the Stuff Man).”

Between these moments, Bay Dream thematically recalls the work of fellow West Coasters and recent collaborators Wavves, as it’s rife with feel-good stoner comedy relationships set to addictive pop hooks made possible by The Beach Boys. What sets Culture Abuse apart from their contemporaries—and Bay Dream from the group’s past discography—is a deficiency of dark undertones. “I know you’re busy, but when you wake up, could you please call me?” is the patient and eager query on “Dip,” as light-hearted and innocent as any tree enthusiast talking you to sleep.